Recently I was making my way through the back streets of Austria when I should bump into a German Dominican priest who was turning the corner. I quickly introduced myself and Father Justin invited me to visit his church which was about a block away. I was eager to accept. As we walked to the church through the beautiful streets of the ancient imperial city, and just around the block from St. Stephen’s Cathedral, I told him that I had a parish that had been served by Dominican Sisters for a century. I told him that I had just come from the city of Regensburg, Germany from whence had come those sisters so many years ago. Located about a mile from our parish is Dominican Village which was also founded by those same Dominican nuns. At the heart of their Amityville complex is an exact replica of the Dominican church in Regensburg. Father Justin exclaimed “Oh, I have heard of this place Amityville where all those Dominicans have served the parish for a century.”
As we approached his Austrian church we entered the darkness and I was immediately struck by the beauty of the baroque style sanctuary. Father Justin was very kind to show me every nook and cranny of the ancient place and we chatted for a long time about things priests like to talk about. We talked of the pope, theology, vocations and clerical gossip.
As I was about to leave I thanked Father Justin for taking the time to show me around the beautiful church. I told him the old church was magnificent, but I could never understand something odd that stuck out in the center of his church. I had visited many churches around the world and in a few of these churches there was an old large clock located in the center of the sanctuary. I told Father Justin that I remember in my seminary we were told there ought not be a clock in the sanctuary as it would distract the congregation. The sanctuary was supposed to be a “place outside of time.” The wise young priest taught me something in that instant. He said “Oh, the clock doesn’t work; it’s not supposed to. It is there to remind us that one day we ourselves will ‘run out of time’ and our lives will suddenly and unexpectedly end.” I got a chill. How brilliant.
What a shock that was to me. I had seen it many times, but failed to fully comprehend the profound and ancient meaning. The broken clock faces us to remind us one day our time will be up! We enter into these days of Advent to prepare for the coming of the Lord at Christmas. May we be waiting…ready…alert…for His return.